“The Lord of Delays”      Mark 5:21-43               March 11, 2007




Gospel of Mark is the record of an invasion.

   It’s about the Son of God coming into our world

   and challenging our perceptions about what God is like.


INTRO:  I want you to imagine this happening to you.

You rush your child to the emergency room with a life-threatening illness—

   she is unconscious and her heartbeat is failing.

When you get there the doctor says—Yes, this is very serious.

   We will get to her right away.  Please sit here.


Then he turns to an older woman who is sitting there and says:

   Mrs. Smith, we’ll see you now.

You say, What!  What’s wrong with her?!

   And she says, Honey, I’ve had back trouble for years.

   This morning my back went out on me and it’s killing me.


You say, Doctor!  My daughter can’t wait!

   And he says, We’ll get to her in just a minute, as soon as we treat Mrs. Smith.


Someone has said of this story in Mark—

   If Jesus was an emergency room doctor, he would be sued for malpractice.

A little girl is dying, Jesus is on the way to heal her—

   but he stops to deal with a woman who has a chronic, 12 year problem—

   and he also take the time to give a brief lesson on faith.


You can hear the tension in the disciples’ voices as they say:

   What do you mean, who touched me?

   Everyone is crowding around you.

We don’t have time for this.  Come on!


Jairus himself does not say anything—at least not recorded.

   But every parent know what he must have been saying inside:

   Come on, come on, come on!  Jesus, this is serious!  Do something now!

But Jesus has his own timetable—and he will not be rushed.


It’s interesting to read sermons of this passage.

   Lots of preachers separate these two stories and preach them separately.

They read verses 21-24 and then skip down to verse 35—

   preach on the raising of Jairus’ daughter.  Jesus’ lordship over death.

Then they read verses 25-34 and preach on the healing of woman.

   Focus on Jesus’ lordship over disease.


That makes a lot of sense.  Easy to overlook healing of woman, great lessons.

   Also, in separating you see a progressive revelation of Jesus’ power,

   starting in chapter three with lordship over storms, demons, disease and death.

But I wanted to look at the whole passage because it’s the tension of these stories

   together that gets your attention—the tension caused by Jesus’ delay.


A little girl is dying and he stops to deal with chronic, 12 year old medical problem. 

   And because of that delay, the little girl dies and parents suffer grief.

   Yes, Jesus raises her.  But why did he delay?


That’s one of the important points of this story.

   Shows us that Jesus is not just sovereign over disease and death—

   he is also sovereign over delays—he is the Lord of delays.

He has his own timetable—and he will not be hurried.

   And that is a good thing, because he knows what he is doing.

   Until you believe that, you will misunderstand the delays in your life.


You will start to doubt his love and care.

   You will accuse him of malpractice.

And the turmoil that causes you will be your own fault because the Lord has made

   it clear that the delays in your life are in fact his timetable.

He has his reasons for why he does things when he does.

   There are hidden, secret things that God is doing.


But he has not left us completely in the dark—given this story for our help.

   In it he shows us three ways he uses delays in the lives of his people.

If you are in the middle of a delay—might not like these reasons.

   But don’t fight against them.  Take them, accept them.

   Push down into heart.

   I’ll give them to you as we go.

MP#1  To increase your trust in Him

One reason for delays in the lives of believers is to increase your trust in Christ.


The most important thing Jesus says to the woman is:

   “Daughter, your faith has healed you.”

The most important thing Jesus says to Jairus is:

   “Don’t be afraid, just believe.”


Faith in the Bible is not a vague spiritual feeling—it’s trusting in a person.

   Jesus means:  “Daughter, your faith in me has healed you.”

   Jairus, “Don’t be afraid, just believe in me.”


Both came to Jesus with pressing needs—each desperate in their own ways.

   Where does Jesus steer both of them?  To greater faith in him.


Let’s focus on Jairus.  He was the ruler of the synagogue in Capernaum.

   This was not a teaching office—he was not a Pharisee or teacher of law,

   it was a very honorable administrative position.


As the most visible member of the synagogue, Jairus would have certainly

   been involved in many conversations about Jesus.

He would have known the negative opinion the religious leaders had of Jesus.

   So it would have taken a great deal of faith, or desperation, to come to Jesus,

   and publicly ask for him to come and heal his daughter.


There is a little detail in the story that makes me think his family and friends—

   the well-connected synagogue people—were not happy he had gone to Jesus.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this—but it’s the way they showed up so quickly

   after the girl died and tried to separate Jairus from Jesus.

“Your daughter has died, why bother the teacher any more?”

   We understand your desperation in seeking his help,

   but enough of this Jesus phase.

Come on back to your senses.


But notice what Jesus does. 

   He uses this to challenge Jairus to stay with him—

   and to take his faith one step deeper.

Jesus says in essence: 

   You trusted me in your girl’s illness—now, trust me in her death. 

And so we see very clearly how Jesus used this delay—

   to provide an opportunity for Jairus’ faith to increase.


He does the very same thing with you.

Just think for a minute what your faith would be like if God

   worked out all your prayers and plans according to your timetable.

I’m sure you would be happy with that.

   I’m sure you would say that Jesus is wonderful, that you trust him.

   But your faith would really be very shallow.

You are really trusting your plans and your blessings.


It’s when Jesus says, Wait. 

   And he delays the things that you think you can’t live without

   that you really have an opportunity to grow in faith.

We have some old friends who for years could not have children.

   They prayed for children but the years marched on.  Biological clocks ticking.

   Another year without children, then another.

God finally answered their prayers.


But what I want to tell you is what I saw in them during the delay.

   They didn’t accuse God of malpractice—their faith in him grew.

Grew to the point where they were able to say—

   If childlessness is God’s plan for us, blessed be the name of the Lord.


You may have your own dreams or plans that are being delayed—good things.

   Romance, business, finance—but it’s obvious that God is delaying.

   Things just aren’t happening.  There are obstacles too big to move.

This is an opportunity for greater trust in Christ.


Quite frankly, this is sometimes what separates true faith from false faith.

   It’s like the seed in the parable that falls on shallow soil

   and springs up quickly but withers in the sun because it has no root

Those are people who say Jesus is wonderful when blessing coming fast & furious

   but then fall away when things they long for are delayed.

Don’t be like that.  Increase your trust in Christ.

MP#2  To give you opportunities to encourage others.

A second reason for delays in the lives of believers is to give you opportunities to encourage others.  And I don’t mean a general sort of encouragement—

   but a particular encouragement in Christ.  Opportunities for witness.


When he got to his house, there was a loud commotion—people wailing.

   These were professional mourners—part of that culture.

In our culture, when someone dies, call the funeral home.

   In that culture, you called the mourners.


That’s why these people were able to so quickly switch from wailing

   to laughing at Jesus when he said that she was not dead but asleep.

By the way, she really was dead.  She had not fallen into a coma.

   But Jesus spoke this way in the certainty of what he was about to do.

   Anyway, these mourners mocked Jesus.


Once again, here was an occasion for Jairus to say to Jesus—

   it’s too late, your delay cost my daughter her life.

Now you are saying she’s just asleep. 

   I can’t take getting hopes raised and dashed.

   But he didn’t He stayed with Jesus, still had faith.


And now there is another one of these interesting details—girl’s mother mentioned.

I just want us for a moment to think about this from her perspective.

   Her husband had gone in this last desperate hope for healing.

   So she had been without him when her little girl died.

   She had probably been there at the bed and watched her die.


Enough time had passed for the mourners to be called.

   This mother was grieving.  She had torn her clothes, she was weeping.

And in walks her husband with the teacher Jesus and his disciples.

   You can imagine her going to her husband and saying:  It’s too late.  She’s dead.

And then this Jesus has sharp words with the mourners and sends them away.

   That had to strike her as strange, wrong.


What if you had a loved one die at home, called the funeral home—Called Moss—

   and they showed up, started getting body ready to carry out, suddenly visitor,

   visiting preacher gets into an argument with them, sends them away. 

You know she had to have asked her husband—What is going on?

But there must have been a calmness in his response that calmed her too—

   at least enough to go into the room with Jesus—

   and, of course, it was there that her girl was restored to her.

Now, this is my point—It was through the faith Jairus exercised in the delay,

   that he was able to point his wife to Christ.  He was able to encourage her.


It will often be the case that the people closest to you—

   spouses, children, friends, church members—

   are the ones most encouraged by your faith.

Parents—your children are never going to forget the way you handle

   delays and disappointments of life with faith in Christ. 


On our NY trip, got to see some old seminary friends.  I’ve told about them before.

   At an old, historic church on Staten Island.  Been there 6 years.

   Working and praying for revival.

The church was spiritually dead when got there—decades of liberal preaching.

   Charlie and Leslie thought 2 people in congregation believers.

   But realized if church could be revived—because of location and standing—

   it could be a lighthouse for Gospel.

What could be better than that?


But God is delaying that revival.  Some little signs of life, but lots of setbacks.

   In fact, day say them, some influential board members told Charlie—

   We’re tired of hearing sermons about sin—want you to make people feel good.

I asked him what he is going to do.  Keep preaching till kick me out.

   At one point, after showing us church, explaining community—

   Do you see why we stay? 


They were an encouragement to us.  But what also noticed, effect on children.

   Children not ashamed—even though lots of mockers, even in church itself.

   Have own bold faith in Christ. 

Has to be because of encouragement gotten from parents in long delay.


Apply this to your own callings—workplace, school, family—

   by trusting Christ in the delays, not listening to mockers,

   not turning away, you become a source of encouragement to believers.

   Jesus uses delays in your life to make you a channel of grace to others.

   The way you face this with Christ builds their faith as well.


MP#3  To sharpen your longing for heaven.

A third reason for delays in the lives of believers

   is to sharpen your longing for heaven. 


Why aren’t people raised from the dead today? 

   Why aren’t there at least 3 or 4 people a year, who die, funeral home called.

   Christians get there, start praying and they come alive?

Even during Jesus’ ministry there weren’t that many raised.

   The Gospels only mention three—this girl, Lazarus, widow of Nain’s son.

Jesus certainly raised other people that Gospels don’t record—

   but he didn’t put the funeral homes out of business in Israel for 3 years.


And those he did raise, died again. 

   This little girl grew up, but at some point she died.

   Hopefully her parents didn’t have to bury her, she outlived them. 

So why did Jesus raise the dead if they were going to die again?

   For that matter, why did he heal this woman who would one day

   fall ill to another disease or old age and suffer all over again?


The immediate reason was Jesus’ compassion.

   He was moved by Jairus’ appeal and the desperate touch of this woman.

Gospels often say that Jesus was moved with compassion.

   He wanted to relieve human suffering and he did often.


But there was a bigger reason—his miracles were pointing forward to resurrection.

When the full power of Jesus’ redemptive work is let loose on world—

   and as the book of Revelation says:

   “There will be nor more death or mourning or crying for pain

   for the old order of things has passed away. 

   And he will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

Through these miracles of healing and resurrection

   Jesus is saying to us that there will come a day of eternal healing and resurrection.


Look at Jairus.  He put his faith in Jesus.  He experienced God’s delay.

   In that delay he suffered grief. 

   But as he grieved, walked with faith to his house with Jesus at his side.

   When he got to the house, got the joy of receiving his daughter back again.

That’s the shorthand experience of all believers.


We have faith in Jesus and we ask him for help with things

   and sometimes, often, we experience a delay.  Things don’t work out.

   But we walk with him in faith, knowing that we are going home.

When we get there, the joys will be so great that it will wipe out

   all of the pain that we felt.

“This present suffering is not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us.”


This means there comes a time when wise Christians no longer pray for healing—

   they long for heaven.

And that’s not a failure of their faith—it’s the exact opposite.


Never forget a conversation I had with a woman in Florida church.

   She suffered from deep depression and a debilitating fear of crowds—

   especially church crowds.  She loved God, loved the church, it was hard for her.

She told me her story—without going into details—

   spiritual and emotional scars from her God hating, Christianity hating father,

   that even as an grown Christian woman she still wrestled with.


I asked if I could pray for her and she said yes, but let me tell you something first. 

Andrew, there are some Christians whose legs are lame—

   and they have decided to quit asking God to heal their legs so they can walk.

And it’s not because they’ve lost their faith.

   Faith is living with your lame legs—and believing with all your heart

   that one day you will see Jesus, and you will walk and run with him.


I’ve come to realize the same thing about my mind.

   There was a time when I used to ask God to heal my mind.

   But my mind is broken in ways that will not be healed in this life.

   I’m going to suffer these things until the day I die.

But I’m full of hope.  I’m full of faith. 

   Because I’m going to see Jesus one day—and my mind will be made strong.

   That’s what sustains me.  Now, pray for me. 


Do your delays, your hopes deferred—the healings that have not come,

   the wedding bells not rung, the successes unrealized—

   do they sharpen your longing for heaven? 

They should.  That’s the Lord’s intent.

   Our great hope is not this life—but Christ’s eternal kingdom.

CONC:  What’s this story about in one word? 

   It’s not really about delays.  It’s about faith.  It’s about trust.


Trusting that Jesus Christ is the Lord he says he is.

   Trusting that even if your child dies before healing comes—

   that Jesus is not guilty of malpractice.

He knows what he is doing.

   And he does all things well.


There is a line in that new hymn we sing:  In Christ Alone.


No guilt in life, no fear in death—

This is the power of Christ in me.


From life’s first cry, to final breath—

Jesus commands my destiny.


Do you believe that?  

   Do you believe he destines even your delays and disappointments

   for his glory and your good?


You should.  It’s true.